Swipe Right, Swipe Left: How Dating Apps Revolutionized Dating

The dating world has drastically changed since the era of traditional matchmakers. Every town had a matchmaker, whose primary mission was to find every boy and girl a match. Yente, the matchmaker from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, is the epitome of an “old world” matchmaker. Yente knew families, personalities, the locals, and as such secured her own position in the community. Matchmaking was an essential job in old Russia, so why isn’t it around today? How are today’s men and women any different from our ancestors centuries ago?

The dating world has evolved since the golden age of matchmakers, but that does not mean a little dating assistance should be shunned. The hard part comes when assistance is not through a cute, old lady, but rather through digital mediums.

The Need for Digital Dating

Why do we need digital mediums, or “apps,” for dating assistance? Because workplace romances are on the decline (probably for the better), blind dates are becoming more rare, and the bar scene was never that great in the first place.

Workplace romance is less common for fear of jeopardizing one’s career, concern over accusations of harassment, or simply the lack of opportunities to meet people through work. For example, the heteronormative roles assumed in the workplace over the past 60 years is now uncommon. Since men and women see each other differently, and a new level of professionalism has emerged, the opportunity for romance is reduced. Imagine a workplace that resembled scenes from Mad Men. Exactly, that would never exist today. Yes, there are still male-dominated professions, but today, there are also female-dominated professions. As a result of the change in work culture, men and women recognize that finding a meaningful partner at, or through, work is difficult.

Unfortunately, the traditional blind date is also on the brink of extinction due to a concept of “urban community.” Today, many single people live in major cities, sprawling with far too many people and opportunity. Consequently, individuals build “urban communities” or “bubbles.” The bubble includes a small group of friends and young individuals who stick together for social activities in order to foster a community, connections, and a sense of belonging in our fast-paced worlds. Since young people stick to the same group of people, they are less likely to be introduced to a potential partner through an existing friend.

If a single person is not meeting someone through work or through friends, there is also the nightlife scene, right? Wrong. While meeting a meaningful partner out at night is possible, it is highly improbable. Plus, many single professionals use their nightlife scene as an opportunity to “let loose” with existing friends. Of course, many men and women are on the prowl at bars and nightclubs, but instant chemistry aside, how do you filter anyone at a bar?

The Digital Dating Revolution

Wow. So, where does the single person find a partner? It appears some assistance is necessary. What used to be the last resort for many individuals is now becoming the accepted and preferred norm: online platforms and apps for dating.

First off, why are dating apps preferable to online platforms, such as eHarmonyMatch, or OkCupid? These online platforms require or encourage you to divulge personal information via text. Just as it is difficult to get a first impression right on the first time at a bar or party, it is hard to get a first impression right through prescribed text and deliberate photos that capture your fun, athletic, loving, and professional sides. Reveal too much and you are deemed an “overshareer,” reveal too little and people begin to question why you didn’t write more. Second, and most important, these online platforms have fees. Therefore, what is their ultimate goal? To make money, not seek meaningful matches. We are using a computerized Yente who has her built-in algorithms to find you a mate.

Dating apps revolutionized dating, not necessarily because they have led to more relationships, but rather because dating is a recognized priority, and perhaps a more enjoyable process because of the apps. Dating still may not be a whole-ton-of-fun, but the intense pressure associated with a date decreases as people become more comfortable dating. There is a conscious realization when downloading an app geared for meeting a partner, that, for lack of a better phrase, the person is “single and ready to mingle.” Dating in the digital era is no longer secretive, and with everyone on these apps the stigma has dissipated. Yes, of course, one becomes discouraged, or disappointed if there are no matches. Or perhaps worse, when you have matches, but your objectives are not aligned (e.g., hook up versus relationship).

Secondly, the apps are better than their serious online alternatives, because for both sexes the first filter is looks. We marry for love these days, so attraction should be the first baseline when reviewing mates. Now, here is the public service announcement, guys and gals: stop looking for Ryan Gosling and Scarlett Johansson. Swipe right for your standard of beauty and compatibility. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is the concept of fun. Is every picture of the person running a marathon actually the same lifestyle for you, the person who considers walking to the metro your only exercise? For heaven’s sake people, stop swiping right to people you have little compatibility with! If you are interested in casual dating or a hook up, write something in your profile that informs others of your outlook. It may be necessary to do a little filtering while quickly swiping, but do not go overboard or become picky on an app.

Lastly, a word on when you have a match. An unfortunate byproduct of the dating apps is that they encourage texting as the mode of communication. If you are even remotely intrigued by this person, communicate with them! And after a little texting on the app and you realize that he/she is not a complete bozo, ask for his/her number and ask them out. First dates are no longer elaborate evenings, so, stop hiding behind a phone.

In the end, meeting someone randomly, at an event, or through friends may make a better story for the grand kids, but for many who have the generic schedule of “get up, work, gym, eat and bed” finding someone is a challenge. Better to have the grand kids and meet your partner by swiping, than waiting for Mr. Right to magically appear. The randomness associated with meeting someone on an app may very well be just as sporadic as a bar, grocery store, or wherever you “dreamed” of meeting your one and only.

To Gift or Not to Gift?

As someone who recently entered their late twenties, I have been hit hard and fast with inescapable wedding invites. At first it came as a shock, it was nuptial madness everywhere I looked. But over time it began to settle in as the norm, and the actual dilemma was in fact my commitment to this drawn out ceremony.

Entering ‘Wedding Season’ is somewhat of an inevitability that you learn to deal with; whether or not the simple idea of your party-animal college buddy voluntarily retiring him or herself to one partner for the rest of their days is incomprehensible. Once emotions subdue – maybe even because you think you will wind up alone yourself – the second question arises… and then the third, fourth, fifth… depending on the incumbent spouse-to-be.

Once I find out I have to attend an engagement party, bachelor party, and ultimately the wedding celebration – in a different state – the little excitement I had quickly dissipates [Don’t forget bridal showers for females]. But the real kicker is when I realize how much all of the above will cost – between gifts and travel. Is there a proper way to opt-out of some of the aforementioned fabricated celebrations? Maybe some, if your significant other grants you requisite permission. According to Giftypedia, guests are not obligated to bring a gift to engagement parties. Really??? I would rather lie about a relative passing away and risk getting caught, than show up empty handed. These social conventions can really be a thorn in the side. I am still not quite sure why a bridal shower is necessary, but according to the same website even co-ed showers exist.  It doesn’t seem like much explanation is required for a shower, since by definition you should ‘shower’ the bride with gifts. Between the engagement party and shower alone, you could be looking at upwards of $150 or more… for each couple. And for those obnoxious engagements that already have their registry established… well, I don’t even want to go there.

Now moving on to the bachelor/bachelorette party. Honestly anyone would enjoy an elaborate, extravagant, Hangover-esque party – but realistically it will be a bunch of bro’s drinking some Natty Ice at the Golden Nugget, wondering why your pool of money only bought the middle-aged and overweight mom with her kid sitting outside the door. For the bachelorettes, we are probably looking at a fun filled weekend at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, with as many bottles of Barefoot white wine you can buy at one time. Add a couple of penis-waterguns and pink tiaras, and then cab over to the Borgata to pretend like you are living large. Can’t find an unsuspecting Jersey shore macho man to take home? Just disguise it as a calm ladies night to those who bailed the week earlier… make them jealous! All jokes aside, a bachelor party can be a great time, but who really has the time or money to do this several times a year? Any party outside of your very own TMZ is going to be no picnic – so pick your friends carefully! And for the misanthropic folks among us, several times a year is several times too much. Analogous to Mastercard, there are some things money can’t buy… bachelor parties are not one of them.

Last but definitely not least, we have the wedding. If there was only a wedding, I wouldn’t be ranting of matrimony tribulations. Without question the wedding should be an enjoyable event, especially if the chateaubriand isn’t as hard as a rock. However since a gift is required whether or not I attend, let me just mail a nice gift card to the Red Lobster if you are more than a 60 minute drive away. And I dare for this espousal to have a cash bar, I would be happy to pay for my meal – which is why you always bring the checkbook to the wedding and decide on an amount after arriving. Is it really the thought that counts? A recentCBS article had the audacity to advise that you can always provide a personal gift to the bride and groom, to show thought was put into the gift. No, Grandma, I do not want a photo album of my third-extended family once removed.

All said and done, we are looking at a ‘start to finish’ + ‘engagement to wedding’ cost of over $1000 per couple, if travel is involved. I am certainly not made of money in my mid-twenties – something has got to give. By the time I get married I won’t even know half of these people; definitely seems like someone is getting a free lunch. I will save wedding registries and the infamous ‘plus one’ discussion for another time.

80% of weddings are 20% worth my time. Cynical? Maybe. Prudent? Absolutely.

Why Craigslist’s Missed Connections is the #1 Worst Place on the Internet

Saw you on the metro today reading Steve Job’s biography.  Or is it autobiography?  You know, the one everyone’s reading with his face on the cover.  Whatever.  We smiled at each other.

You:  Wearing a bold blue striped tie with, I think, a little bit of a salsa stain at the bottom.

Me: Tan rain coat. Let me know what color my scarf was so I know it was you.

There are a lot of terrible places on the Internet (spoiler alert).  But none compare to the morass that is humanity on display at Craigslist’s endless romantic comedy Missed Connections.  It doesn’t matter if its w4m, m4m, or mw4t, it’s just generally a place one should avoid.  If you appreciate well-written romantic diatribes, stay away, cause there are none to be found.  If you’re looking for a post about yourself (like, obviously) stay away, because no one is ever going to write about you.  But, alas, if that’s not enough to keep you away, let’s break it down a bit.

1.  The passivity of the whole thing

For shits and giggles, let’s say you’re out with your friends on a Saturday night and you happen across an attractive gentleman and you two share a slurred conversation over a watered down vodka tonic he buys you.  But your friends – it’s always the friends – eager to cockblock you to the singledom bench forever, call you away and you part from your fellow without exchanging numbers.  Now, instead of just being man and/or woman enough to ditch this whole pretense of modern-dating game-playing and ask for each other’s contact information, you resort to some message-in-the-bottle-esque post on Sunday morning.  Given the chances are poor that you even accurately remember what your man looks like, and the equally poor chances he remembers what color your broche was, its never going to work out.  Stick to the plan and be aggressive.

2.  The want-to-be writers

There is another category of posts on “CL MC” that fall into the prose category.  These aren’t actual “wanted ads” as much as they are public but yet still anonymous ways for ex-lovers to write about their sadness over loss.  Some type of very public therapy.  The titles area always “thinking of you always,” or “why did you leave me,” or “was there always someone else?”  Some include poetry.  And not even ironic poetry, but actual 8th-grade-notebook poetry replete with terms like “forever” and “cut deep” …like a knife, of course.  Cheating is a common theme with these posts.  Why are all writers unfaithful to their spouses?  Hemingway idolatry?

3.  Men always think it’s a connection

Take a look at the Men searching for Women category vs. the Women searching for Men category.  What you will find is that, on average, men post dozens more MC ads per day than their female counterparts.  What the hell?  Every single guy on the metro thinks that by exchanging glances with a woman, she is signalling her interest.  Maybe she’s looking around to see who farted in the train car?!  Should all women adopt an angry scowl in public to avoid this dilemma?  Recent articles on sexuality claim women think about sex as often as men do, but yet on Craiglist, the genders are far from 50/50.  What’s up with this?  Maybe something for an underpaid overworked undersexed graduate student to study.

 80% of Missed Connections are pitiful.  So are the other 20%.